Saturday, April 27, 2013

Clean, Lean and Green Crispy Skin Apple Cinnamon Chicken with Goat Cheese and Braised Leeks #healthyluxemeals


was the first thing that came to mind as I read the e-mail from my development, and saw in bold print with exclamation points and assumed smiley faces...

"The pool is now open!!!"

And with those 5 little words came a feeling of dread, wondering how it could already be swimsuit season...

we're not even 5 months in.  I was so not smiling.

Didn't they get the memo?  Everyone knows that Spring is when you start thinking about whether your air conditioner will work, you're reminded that those slimming salads really are as good if not better than those heavy stews, and you gradually start peeling off the layers, in clothing and then some (yikes!).  It's a delicate transition, and one not to be rushed.

But in this case, looks like I'll need to dive in head first.  No sinking for this gal, I choose swim.

Because, oh yea, did I tell you...

The pool is now open!!! (woo hoo!)

So, what's the best way to get started towards a slimmer you?

Go cleaner, leaner and greener.

I created this dish using some of my favorite ingredients that are tasty, full of health benefits, and have been shown to help in loosing weight!

Apples- with only 95 calories, this inexpensive and easy to find fruit is high in vitamin C and fiber, leaving you feeling fuller.  It's also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, and eaten pre-exercise, can help extend your workout, giving you more energy to burn! (source)

Leeks-  oh, the leek.  I love leeks, in my soups, roasted, and now, braised.  And with too many incredible health benefits to list (read here for more- very interesting), I'll admit I was first attracted to them after reading the book "French Women Don't get Fat," and the interesting tip of using leek soup to aid in weight loss.

Cinnamon- who would have known that cinnamon was such a superstar spice?  And how many of you have really even had much cinnamon since the breakfasts of your youth of cinnamon sugar toast?  Not only has the smell of cinnamon been shown to increase brain function, but eating it before meals can help reduce glucose absorption (source).

Then, add in some lean protein (yes, I remove the skin, even though it's so darn pretty.  And always cook chicken on the bone with the skin on to enhance flavor!)  Some goat cheese, which is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than milk from cows, not to mention such a creamy, dreamy, rich addition to this dish (I could drizzle the apple cinnamon sauce on it all day long!)  And don't forget the fresh thyme, which has the highest amount of antioxidants of all the fresh herbs.
Who would have thought something so lick-your-fingers (and the plate) delicious could be so healthy, too?

Crispy Skin Apple Cinnamon Chicken with Goat Cheese and Braised Leeks

3 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
4 leeks, washed thoroughly- base, green tops, and tough outer leaves removed
Chicken broth to cover half way up leeks (about 1-1/2 cups depending on size of pan)
1/2 large sweet yellow onion, cut into half moons
2 apples, cut into quarters (I used Granny Smith)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Seasonings, I used salt, pepper and Mural of Flavor (I LOVE this stuff.  The lemon and orange peel, shallots, chives and herbs really compliment this and many other dishes)
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate (do not defrost. I used 100% juice)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
Goat cheese as desired
1/2 teaspoon, fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
Olive oil

In a large oven-proof skillet add in oil and the onions, and cook over med-high heat until translucent.  Push onions over to one side of the pan, and to the other place the leeks, which have been cut in half lengthwise, face down.  Salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, or until leeks are nicely brown.
Remove leeks and place in a 9x13 pan (now cut side up) and add in enough chicken broth to cover half way up the leek.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, back to the skillet with the onions (move onions to the edges), add more oil as needed and place the chicken skin side down in the center and cook over med-high heat until the skin is browned and crispy.  Salt, pepper and season the top of chicken before you place in pan, and then the bottom as it is cooking. (I used Mural of Flavor).

While the chicken is cooking make sauce.  In a small saucepan, add in the frozen apple juice concentrate, honey, champagne vinegar, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste, fresh thyme and seasonings to taste.  Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat to slightly thicken for a few minutes.

Once the chicken skin is crispy and browned, turn over in the pan, so it's now skin side up.  Place the cut apples around the chicken and pour the sauce over all.  Sprinkle the apples with a bit more cinnamon and place skillet in the oven with the leeks.  Baste the chicken every 15 minutes with the sauce, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve the chicken, apples and onions with sauce, with the leeks on the side.  Add on a few slices or crumbles of goat cheese and garnish with fresh thyme as desired.

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